Playing in their first shootout of the season, the Stockton Heat explored unchartered waters in their maiden trip down to Southern California, ultimately losing at the hands of the AHL-affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, the San Diego Gulls, 3-2 Friday night.
The Heat answered a Gulls one-goal lead twice in regulation on scores by Bryce Van Brabant and Bill Arnold to force the overtime period.
Starting the extra time with the trio of Arnold, Markus Granlund, and Jakub Nakladal, Stockton produced a pair of shots but could not solve NHL veteran goaltender Matt Hackett.
Goaltender Jon Gillies kept his team in the shootout, stonewalling the first three San Diego attempts before allowing a goal by Gulls centre Michael Sgarbossa in the fourth round.
This time, Stockton was unable to respond, with centre Freddie Hamilton’s shot knocked away by Hackett.
"It was our first experience with [3-on-3 overtime] and maybe a little hesitation out there," Arnold said. "I think that we settled in as it went on and had some good chances at the end there. We just have to put one of those in during the shootout. Jon [Gillies] did his job to stop the first three shots, so we have to bear down and be better there."
Gillies’ effort included 24 saves, eleven of which came in the second period. Defenceman Brett Kulak recorded an assist on the second goal and four penalty minutes for roughing and tripping.
Stockton had 33 shots in the game but was unable to capitalize on seven power-play chances garnered from San Diego penalties.
Despite the end result, Heat head coach Ryan Huska was impressed with his team’s fight.
"I was real happy with the way we worked tonight," Huska said. "A little bit of our execution was off at times, but the efforts that we put forth were what we want to see consistently. At the end of the day we didn’t score on some lengthy power plays and that’s the difference in tonight’s game."
The Heat (2-2-0-1) will face the same Gulls later today in San Diego with the initial puck drop scheduled for 6:35 MT.